arts

Legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli dies aged 96

Updated 15th June 2019
Leonard Whiting plays Romeo Montague and Olivia Hussey plays Juliet Capulet in the 1968 production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
Credit: Bettmann Archive
Legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli dies aged 96
Written by Rob Picheta, CNN
Legendary Italian theater, opera and film director Franco Zeffirelli died on Saturday at the age of 96, a spokeswoman for his foundation in Rome told CNN.
Zeffirelli, whose prolific work in the second half of the 20th century established him as one of the country's most cherished creative figures, had been debilitated by pnuemonia he contracted around two weeks ago and had failed to recover, Loretta Formicone said.
His 1968 adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" earned him an Oscar nomination, while his film "The Taming of the Shrew," made the previous year and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, endures as one of the 20th century's most celebrated retellings of a Shakespearean comedy.
Director Franco Zeffirelli (centre) rehearsing with actors Natasha Pyne and Michael York for the film 'The Taming of the Shrew', 1967. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Director Franco Zeffirelli (centre) rehearsing with actors Natasha Pyne and Michael York for the film 'The Taming of the Shrew', 1967. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Zeffirelli's work in opera was equally esteemed; the operatic films "La Traviata" and "Otello" are regarded as classics of the genre, and the director staged shows in many of the world's most prestigious opera houses during a lengthy career.
"Jesus of Nazareth," a pioneering British television miniseries, further cemented his status as a leading artistic figure of recent decades. His prominent role in Italy continued while he served as a senator in Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.
"Ciao Maestro," a message on the website for his Franco Zeffirelli Foundation read, after local media reported his death.